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socialising » Blogging AS an Aspie
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Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is writing this blog so that people can gain more of an insight into how people with the condition process thoughts, feel emotions, react to situations and generally handle life.
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24 Jun 08 Marine disruptive pattern material

I was visiting a medical school today, and though that I might blog about the social aspects of the open day, and how I coped with them. Note that this post is paraphrased from a confidential journal I’m doing to help me keep track of things.

The title of this is called “Marine Disruptive Pattern Material”, because it is the first thing I noticed. Not the first thing of the day, but the first thing I noticed when I sat down to lunch. As you might expect, the foyer was rather busy, and there were no free tables; I noticed a young-ish lady sitting on her own, so I politely asked if I could sit next to her, and she said I could. My observation skills picked out that she was wearing a blue DPM style bra and not that I was looking, it was slightly sticking out over her blue strappy top.

We got talking, of course – who can shut me up? – and we spoke about school, A levels, exams, the open day itself and general things like how old we were, where we were from and so on. Funnily enough, I never conversed on any topics that could be considered inappropriate. The only thing I regret was not getting R’s phone number or surname (for FaceStalking)!

However, I did have a “get a grip” moment with myself, when I seemed to lose my flirty personality. I was sitting at another empty table later in the day waiting for the next tour of the campus, and a good-looking young lady came and sat next to me. She was wearing tight-fitting jeans and a white top. I didn’t even open my mouth to say a word. Something must be up with me…

For the rest of the time, I was just talking to the student guides, finding out about the place. I felt comfortable enough to mention my Asperger’s to one of the 2nd year lasses, and she was quite supportive and stuff, looked out for me for the rest of the day, which was nice of her!

Socially, no problems. But then, I always knew I can cope with things, it’s just being able to prove to the service provider that I can do so, without having to go behind their back and breaking their risk assessments…

27 May 08 Arguing

True to form, my holidays have started off in what is now their traditional way, an argument with my parents (from an Aspie perspective, one could argue that it is at least reassuring that some things never change and that there is a level of consistency). I can now pretty much guarantee that on the Saturday evening after I return home, there will be an argument relating to some aspect of “my behaviour” and “keeping me safe”.

But why am I in this state? Why do I always get myself in a state where I want to cry because of the arguments?

This time, it’s about meeting my friend, to help her revise. For some reason, I had it in my head that my Mum would be reasonable, and let me go and meet my friend to help her. But no, I was wrong. I told her after I got back from Newcastle that I had met this friend; the usual lecture began, an exact copy of what the service provider has been over-exaggerating. I was, as usual, reminded of the risks, that there is a strong possibility I could make my friend feel scared in my presence, that I could do something socially/sexually inappropriate, that I could ‘not conform to the unwritten rules of society’, or that my friend could accuse me of something. That last comment leads to the usual reminders, I could be branded a “rapist”, or a “paedophile”, that I could have allegations show up on a CRB, which would ruin my career ambition.

I was finding it difficult enough to trust the management of the service provider; considering I now no longer genuinely believe that I have a chance of a reasonable outcome when I ask for things to be considered. For my Mum to be taking the same approach really upsets me; I do not wish to not trust my Mum.

I text my friend after this argument, and she replied:

Wel I KNOW tht u wudnt do anything like that. and they shud too! [...] bt if its best then il just revise by myself, then u wnt hav ths shit

This made me happier. As far as I’m concerned, it proves one thing, that I can cope, and that I can cope quite well. All that matters to me is that she is ok with things. My main problem is that I’m in a ‘catch-22′ situation, I can’t prove I can cope being with her independently without going against my Mum’s wishes or service provider’s orders and thus getting myself into trouble.

I told my friend that I enjoy spending time with her, that the revision is something fun, worthwhile and sensible. I told her my feelings on what the adults around me are doing; that they are refusing to believe me (or listen in some cases), that I’m not going to let it bother me, and that it’s basically just crap what they’re doing.

11 May 08 Crisis management

Well, as I did say, I was at my mate’s 18th birthday party last night. It started out really well, with us meeting together in Newcastle and then going for some drinks, which were generously bought by the rich and now legal birthday boy. Afterwards, we took a walk to the bus stop where we had a 20 minute wait, so I ended up impressing my new-found acquaintances with my photography skills.

After arriving at his house, which is a very nice place, the drinks kept on flowing as we helped finish putting out the food and blowing up balloons (along with all the teenage innuendo that goes with it). The food was absolutely brilliant, home cooked by my mate’s Mum, and I thoroughly enjoyed it – having decided that I’d best eat a fair bit before drinking much more. Again, my camera was out, snapping away at different things here and there, all the time impressing those who saw the shots.

Its fair too assumes that by the time most of his family had left, all of us teenagers were fairly drunk. We started enjoying ourselves a bit more; I can remember dancing with a lovely young lady to High School Musical. With the lager now finished, we drank a bottle of wine between us before opening the bottle of vodka to have as shots. A useful thing to remember is that vodka burns, and gets to your bloodstream quite quickly. Now, I can recall a set of drinking games cards was being looked at as we had our second shot, and third, but then as we toasted to friendship, the young lady became extremely upset; the situation changed rapidly from a drunken party into a crisis management because she was in floods of tears about something. Present at this were myself, who’d only just met her 8 hours earlier, my mate who knew her well, and her boyfriend.

As you’d expect her boyfriend tried to comfort her, but physical comfort can only go so far, my mate tried to talk her through what he knew of the situation, but it didn’t appear to be helping. Thankfully, my mate trusted me at this point that I knew what to do, so I hinted for him and her boyfriend to effectively shut up and go away. At this point, I have adrenaline kicking in and therefore I become fairy sober in the space of about 15 minutes. The first thing I done was to comfort and reassure, without saying anything I simply put my arm around her and let her cry silently for a few moments. I then distanced myself emotionally from this all by telling her I don’t know the situation or the people to who it refers, I also told her that I was going to listen to her explain it to me and how she feels.

We didn’t get very far before my mate asked me to go upstairs and use his room because he thought it would be best to give her complete space from people she knows. This idea worked well, because she simply lay down on the bed and continued to talk to me as I lay next to her and hugged her. I cannot remember what physical contact went on between us; I only know that we were definitely hugging. I was glad she felt she could talk to me about it, being so distant from it all, but this led to issues of trust, I totally appreciated that she couldn’t trust me because she’d only just met me, and I respected that. At this point, I made five failures that took a crisis to a disaster, and although I stand by my decisions come what may, I accept full responsibility for the consequences that came.

She asked if she could have a cigarette outside, and this was ok (I had been given her cigarettes and lighter to look after), so we went outside and I gave her one, as we continued to talk some more. Then, she asked for another one, and I refused, saying that she’d want it in the morning. She then threatened to stay outside in an unfamiliar place to us both, or to leave, the risks for either were immense, and I therefore felt I had no choice but to do everything possible to safeguard myself and her – this meant giving her the second cigarette. Whilst doing this, we continued to talk, and she was beginning to feel better.

For some random reason she asked me for a foot massage, and this was ok, as it helped her stay relaxed. This triggered her to talk about her boyfriend and how much she wanted him to wake up next to her in the morning. I foolishly promised her that I would ask my mate to ask him if he would; this counts as two failures, one for the actual promise, and another for considering the request as reasonable because I had no information about what was going on inside the house. We then went back inside the house, and after showing her back upstairs, I went down to relay the promise.

When I got back upstairs, the situation had changed dramatically, and she was no longer relaxed but quite agitated and didn’t want to talk to me. She wanted to run downstairs, but I knew that this was not in her best interests, so I placed myself between her and the door. She then threatened to shout “rape”, or otherwise, but I held firm, and attempted to persuade her to sit down and talk rationally about this at the same time as trying to reassure her that I had her best interests at heart. I finally conceded that I was no longer helping her, and that I needed backup, so I rang my mate to come upstairs and take over me. What had happened was that she had became scared of me, and what might happen, I think the drink was wearing off and she was realising that she was in a room in somebody else’s house with an older lad she’d only just met. Quite rightly, this scared her, and made her feel very anxious.

I switched roles, and went downstairs to sit with her boyfriend to watch Dr. Who. It took my mate 40 minutes to repair the damage caused by me making her feel scared, and to get her back relaxed and how she was before we came back in from the cigarettes. It took another hour before we asked her to come in and listen to my apology. However, after we woke up this morning, we spoke more, and both agreed to put the incident behind us, and to move on. The positive thing is that she is now able to think about what was making her upset and how she can make herself feel better about it. She’s also more confident, because she is able to relax, and she’s going to attempt to give up smoking for her health.

A good party overall. At first, excellent handling of a crisis incident, but then I got a few things wrong which led to a disaster. However, benefits of hindsight are wonderful, and I took immediate steps to resolve the situation, which worked. I can see my faults, yes, but I can also see the positive aspects of it all.

05 Feb 08 Dr. Ruth Winters

I’m quite a fan of BBC One’s Casualty, and was rather saddened by Saturday’s episode, which saw Ruth hang herself in her room because she couldn’t cope with life’s many pressures. Ruth was an excellent F2 in the eyes of many people, medically speaking her knowledge and commitment to healthcare was second to none. Although quite obviously lacking in the social arena, I noticed quite early in the series that this was a choice she had made; she was there to work, not to socialise.

However, there were also many times during the series where I detected what you may call “Aspie traits”, that is an apparent non-willingness to socialise, to be narrowly focussed on an obsessional interest and other such things. At the same time, I wanted to scream (particularly to Abs, the mental health liaison senior staff nurse) for somebody to notice what this girl was putting herself through. Personally speaking, I know what putting yourself through too much can do, but I also think that Ruth was damn good at hiding how much pressure she was under.

Perhaps it is because I am an Aspie that I can spot traits in others so well, compared to a neurotypical. For instance, most people passed off Ruth’s keenness to research as enthusiasm, I saw it as a sign of becoming obessional, and queried the likelihood of obsessional compulsive disorder. Not going out for drinks after work was seen as Ruth imitating Connie, and becoming a mini ‘Ice Queen’, I realised it was due to a lack of social confidence, a low self-esteem, masked by a thick layer of control and non-emotion – the very traits that can be so easily spotted in a specialist college environment such as the one I currently attend.

The next episode

Since seeing the episode on 9th February, I have this to add: Well done to Dominic (Dr. Doom) for noticing what is wrong with her, and for confronting the issue. That to me is the best way to tackle it. However, he gave up far to easily; yes it would have been wrong for him to kiss her, but under the circumstances he could have hugged her, and calmly talked to her. If he’d tried a little harder, he may have discovered the underlying reasons as to why her confidence is so low.

Well done to Harry Harper for reading her diary, and correctly proportioning the blame onto the ED. I sincerely hope he does make the diary public next week, as it will be an education to all involved in such stressing and emotive professions as to how apparent confidence is often used as a mask to hide low levels of self-esteem.

A final, rather cynical thought: Ruth’s first though upon coming round will be “I’m such a crap doctor I can’t even get my own suicide right!”